From the European side of the Atlantic, the US market appears able to sustain numerous companies offering various different flavours of AEC-specific document management and online collaboration. Thanks to AECcafe.com, I have just added another Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider to my list: ConstructHub.
Based in Tempe, Arizona and formed, it says, by a group of experienced US construction professionals, ConstructHub has "completed comprehensive beta testing" and is ready to launch "true on-line construction project management with mobile support, single source data entry and secure on-demand business data".
For a change, the focus is not on making documents and drawings available online, but on managing business processes: "ConstructHub’s mission," it says, "is to streamline construction business processes and deliver measurable efficiencies through real-time visibility into the financial, human resources, and project management functions of construction management." Moreover, the aim is to achieve this through full interoperability across multiple operating systems, browsers, etc.
However, while the premise is good, the professional-looking website and glib marketing messages cannot completely shield a start-up business that has yet to really prove itself beyond its founders.
The current client list isn’t long (normal for a newly launched business), but four businesses in and around Arizona are listed, including Palisade Construction (whose Chris Bailey is quoted in the news release) and Signature Homes. These "client" testimonials are hardly surprising:
- ConstructHub is based on a web-based document management system written in PHP, codenamed ‘Project Gravity’, created by an Arizona State University computer studies student, Brian Folts, while working for Palisade. ‘Project Gravity’ then evolved into ConstructHub.
- The ‘experienced construction professionals’ in ConstructHub are also the senior figures in Palisade: CEO Troy Witherwax is co-founder and Vice-President of Palisade, while director of product development Keith Wilson is co-founder and President of the same company.
- Signature Homes appears to be part of Palisade Construction Inc (not, I think, to be confused with California-based Palisade Construction).
In short, the slick marketing website and strong launch PR look good, but existing US AEC SaaS vendors such as Autodesk Constructware, Meridian Systems’ ProjectTalk, e-Builder, etc, should not be unduly worried. In a competitive scenario, ConstructHub will struggle to convince potential customers that it has proved itself outside of companies in which its founders have established interests. It is easy to emulate and integrate with the business processes of firms which you know well, but just about every construction company will have subtly different ways of managing things – ConstructHub will need to show that its software services are configurable to suit a potentially much wider range of industry business processes.